Guru Gobind Singh organized a group of militant Sikhs known as Khalsas. Sikh gurus had been following an increasingly martial trajectory under Muslim Mughal persecution.

In 1699, Guru Gobind chose the spring festival of Baisakhi to baptise his first five Khalsas in the Punjabi city of Anandpur. Standing before the crowd on the hill now known as Kesgarh Sahib, he called for a man to come and give his head to the sword—to sacrifice himself for his guru.

Twice he made the call with no answer. The third time, a man came forward and walked with him into the tent pitched there on the hilltop. Guru Gobind came out with a bloody sword. Four more times he made the call, each time bringing in a new man to be sacrificed.

In the end, he came out with Sikhism’s first five Khalsa, thereafter known as Bhai Daya Singh, Bhai Dharam Singh, Bhai Himmat Singh, Bhai Mohkam Singh, and Bhai Sahib Singh.

The Five Marks

These martial Sikhs were given the following five marks to make them easily recognized by one another:

1) Kes (long hair)
2) Kangha (comb)
3) Kach (short pants)
4) Kartha (iron bracelet)
5) Kirpan (sword)

They were also, after baptism in the Amrit Sanchar ceremony, given the name Singh (lion) for males or Kaur (princess) for females. Not all Sikhs are in this group, but these martial Sikhs have been a powerful and influential force within their larger religious community.

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